Why You Cannot Say No To Junk Food

by Jennifer Boudreau on June 6, 2013

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Processed FoodsYou know the routine. Girl Scout cookies are in and you tell yourself you will just have a few. You start in on the sleeve and before you know it half the sleeve is gone. Why does this happen?

Now I was absolutely ADDICTED to processed foods. After all, they are indeed addicting. According to an article in Business Week, sugary beverages and processed foods can “hijack the brain in ways that resemble addictions to cocaine, nicotine and other drugs.”  This is not just speculation, but based on medical research from leading government laboratories and universities. You can even suffer from withdrawal symptoms when trying to remove excess sugar from your diet.  You may have several weeks of poor energy, cravings, depression, and even flu like symptoms. That sounds a lot like addiction to me! I have read over and over that you can become addicted to the sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in processed foods due to their impact on dopamine, a feel good neurotransmitter. The reaction created is similar to an individual addicted to drugs. Your brain craves the same high, so you increase your level of intake in an attempt to generate the original feel good sensation.

I do not know what the experts would say, but I know how I would suggest reducing processed foods from your diet, simply because my husband and I have done it. If you are a fast food eater, cut that out first. It is unhealthy and expensive. You can redirect the money saved to buy healthier food options. Next, focus on shopping from the aisles along the perimeter of the grocery store. I’m sure you have heard this one before, but honestly, it works. You will find mostly whole, natural, unprocessed foods in the aisles along the perimeter. Our weekly shopping cart is loaded primarily with fresh produce, eggs, meat, and dairy. We limit boxed snack foods because they are almost always packed with sugar, chemicals and preservatives.

If you are not up for overhauling your entire diet all at once, simply start by replacing a few meals per week with healthier versions. Over time, your pallet will begin to change. Your taste buds are used to sugar and other artificial ingredients and need time to adjust. I used to hate veggies, but now I walk through the produce aisle thinking to myself “oh, asparagus sounds good today!” This NEVER used to happen. Just search for “clean eating recipes” on the internet and you will find tasty healthful recipes.

I am not saying you can’t enjoy the occasional cookie, slice of cake or favorite snack. As a matter of fact, research shows that having feel-good foods on occasion does not create addiction. The daily consumption of these foods is where the problem lies. So, enjoy on occasion, but do not over do it!

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